CEO Economic Outlook Survey Q4 2015 | Business Roundtable

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Business Roundtable (BRT) is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.

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CEO Expectations for the Economy Worsen

For the Fourth Year in a Row, Regulation Cited as CEOs’ Top Cost Pressure

CEO Economic Outlook

Washington – For the third quarter in a row, CEOs expressed growing caution about the U.S. economy’s near-term prospects and indicated they are moderating their plans for capital investment over the next six months, according to the Business Roundtable fourth quarter 2015 CEO Economic Outlook Survey, released today.

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index – a composite of CEO projections for sales and plans for capital spending and hiring over the next six months – declined 6.6 points, from 74.1 in the third quarter of 2015 to 67.5 in the fourth quarter. This third consecutive quarterly decline brought the Index to its lowest level in three years.

For the first six months of 2016, CEO expectations for sales decreased by 3.2 points and their plans for capital expenditures decreased by 16.7 points. Hiring plans were essentially unchanged from last quarter when they declined by nearly 8 points.

In their first estimate of real GDP growth for 2016, CEOs expect 2.4 percent growth.

“Lower expectations for sales and investment reflect CEOs’ ongoing caution about the near-term prospects for U.S. economic growth,” said Randall Stephenson, Chairman of Business Roundtable, and Chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc. “Congress and the Administration need to work together to continue to fund the government, expand trade, agree on a long-term transportation infrastructure investment plan, reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank and renew expired tax provisions.”

Stephenson continued, “It makes no sense to allow tax policies, such as bonus depreciation and the R&D Tax Credit, to expire this year absent broader corporate tax reform.”

In response to a question posed annually in the fourth quarter, CEOs, once again, reported that regulation was the top cost pressure facing their businesses, followed by labor costs and health care costs. “If we want to see the U.S. economy and hiring really take off, Washington needs to adopt a smarter approach to regulation,” Stephenson added.

Survey Results

The survey’s key findings from this quarter and the third quarter of 2015 include:

Capital Expenditures

Employment

Sales

Fourth Quarter 2015 Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index – a composite index of CEO plans for the next six months of sales, capital spending and employment – declined from 74.1 in the third quarter of 2015 to 67.5 in the fourth quarter of 2015. The long-term average of the Index is 80.1.

About the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey

The Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Survey, conducted quarterly since the fourth quarter of 2002, provides a forward-looking view of the economy by Business Roundtable member CEOs. The survey is designed to provide a picture of the future direction of the U.S. economy by asking CEOs to report their plans for their company’s sales, capex and employment in the next six months. The data are used to create the Business Roundtable CEO Economic Outlook Index and sub-indices for sales, capex and hiring expectations – diffusion indices that range between -50 and 150 – where readings at 50 or above indicate an economic expansion, and readings below 50 indicate an economic contraction. A diffusion index is defined as the percentage of respondents who report that a measure will increase, minus the percentage who report that the measure will decrease.

The fourth quarter 2015 survey was completed between Oct. 14 and Nov. 4, 2015. Responses were received from 140 member CEOs. The percentages in some categories may not equal 100 due to rounding. Results of this and all previous surveys can be found at www.brt.org/resources/ceo-survey.